Formations Summary

May–August 2018

Unit 1: Paul and the Spirit

Keith Durso
Most of us are familiar with the story of Cinderella, her ugly stepsisters, and their cruel stepmother. The Holy Spirit is sort of the Cinderella of Christian doctrine. Like Cinderella, we tend to keep the Spirit hidden away, bringing it out only when absolutely necessary. In these lessons, we will discover how differently Paul treats the Holy Spirit. Through Paul’s writings, we will see how the Spirit made one congregation an example of Christian living and gifted another with spectacular—though sometimes misused—gifts. We will visualize a courtroom where the guilty are declared not guilty and another scene where former enemies embrace. Finally, we will be reminded that even if we ignore the Spirit, the Spirit will not ignore us.

Unit 2: Lesser-Known Prophets

Joseph V. LaGuardia
When we think of prophets, we likely think of fortune-tellers who declare the future or those with gifts so rare and important that whole books of the Bible are named after them. This study will help correct both understandings by examining the accounts of four lesser-known prophets: Nathan, who confronts King David; Ahijah, who informs Jeroboam that he will rule ten tribes after King Soloman’s death; Micaiah, who uses satire to tell King Ahab the truth; and Huldah, who guides King Josiah in his pursuit of God. Their examples teach us that prophets are, in biblical times and today, messengers declaring God’s intentions for God’s people.

Unit 3: Becoming God’s People

Paul Redditt
Beginning with Israel’s great statement of monotheism, the Shema, this unit examines ways that Israel’s commitment to one God frames their identity as God’s people. They destroy Canaanite religious sites in order to worship God in the place set before them. They also anoint kings to rule on their behalf, choosing people who observe the law and resist the trappings of power. Finally, they offer their first fruits to express their faith, to remember God’s provision, and to enact God’s vision for a just society. Just as Moses entreated God’s people on the banks of the Jordan, we are called to choose life by following these commandments and by seeking God first.

Unit 4: Jesus’ Priorities

Stephanie Ezell
In this unit, Jesus establishes his priorities through four major decisions. First, Jesus emphasizes a healthy balance between work and rest by calling his disciples to rest after their extended time of preaching, teaching, and healing. Next, he demonstrates saying no and setting appropriate boundaries with others. Third, Jesus exemplifies goal setting and endurance as he “sets his face” toward Jerusalem, knowing both the redemption and the pain to come (Lk 9:51). Finally, Jesus addresses the importance of casting aside our worries and relying on God’s promises to care for us. Jesus puts God at the center of his decisions, trusting in God and God’s purpose. As we strive to do the same, we will discover that God alone deserves a place at the center of our lives.

September–December 2018

Unit 1: James: Practical Faith

Jason Loscuito

“Faith without works,” James famously says, “is dead.” In this five-lesson unit, we will reflect on James’s sayings about practical faith. We’ll begin with a discussion of how Christians are to respond when they face trials and temptations. Next, we’ll read about putting faith into action through works. Third, we will examine how what we say or don’t say indicates the true state of our hearts. In the fourth week, we’ll confront unhealthy attitudes and behaviors that either lead to or manifest as conflict. Finally, we will hear James’s stern words against those who abuse and defraud the poor. Judgment is God’s business, not ours, but we will all be judged by the quality of our hearts and the resulting works of our hands.

Unit 2: Principles of Stewardship

Mary Elizabeth Hanchey

In this study, we will explore some of Jesus’ teachings on wealth and poverty. Although the featured passages deal specifically with finances, they also apply to other resources God has entrusted to us, including our time, talents, and material possessions. This unit approaches stewardship through four main themes: perspective, accountability, responsibility, and reward. Though Jesus resisted the lures of wealth, championed the poor, and condemned the wealthy, he also celebrated risky speculation and dishonestly, perhaps even unjustly gained wealth. We all must wrestle with these difficult, uncomfortable, and startling pronouncements in order to better follow him.

Unit 3: The Book of Ruth

Wayne Ballard

“In the days when the judges ruled…” sets the stage for the book of Ruth. Though only a few pages, Ruth is a mighty book in the history of the Old Testament. It tells a beautiful story of human, familial love, from which David is eventually born. First, Ruth 1 raises the central question, to whom or what am I faithful? Next, Boaz shows Ruth and Naomi kindness as we consider how to practice kindness for others. In week 3, Ruth and Naomi take responsibility for their own well-being, calling us to ask what bold action is called for in our own situations. In the final lesson, as Boaz fulfills his promise to care for Ruth and Naomi, we will ponder what obligations God has given each of us to fulfill.

Unit 4: The Hope of Christmas

Wayne Proctor

When we are children, our hopes at Christmastime often center on toys, games, and other wants. When we become adults, however, we have more responsibilities, and perhaps we think more about the wants and needs of others. Growing to understand what is truly important is critical to our well-being, and often well reflected by how we spend our time and money during this season. As we study Isaiah, Jeremiah, Galatians, and Hebrews, our understanding of Jesus Christ as Messiah, the Hope of Christmas, will grow. By maturing in Christ this season, we’ll be better able to resist the temptations and strains of the season, as well as the disappointment that often follows us into the new year.